Indonesian police ban violent demonstrations, separatism in Papua

Over the past two weeks, Papua has suffered the most severe civil unrest in many years due to alleged racial and ethnic discrimination. Some protesters also demand an independence referendum, which the government ruled out. In this regard, the Indonesian police have banned violent demonstrations and speeches promoting separatism in the easternmost region of Papua. This was announced on Monday by the head of the security service and the state news agency.

The Papuan police issued six notices over the weekend, which included the ban on demonstrations and a list of criminal charges that could be brought against violators, chief security minister Wiranto told a news conference.

“Any person or organization is prohibited from carrying out or spreading separatism in expressing opinions in public and violation of this will result in strict action and law enforcement”, – state news agency Antara reported, citing the notices.

Police also said in the notices that spreading fake news was a punishable crime, Antara reported.

Police have arrested 41 people in several Papuan cities for damaging public facilities and looting, Wiranto said.

Separately, two students were arrested in Jakarta and charged for treason.

Four Australians who allegedly took part in a pro-independence demonstration in the city of Sorong, West Papua, would be deported, immigration authorities said in a statement.

About 6,000 police and military personnel have been flown in to Papua, national police chief Tito Karnavian said, reinforcing the already heavy military presence in a region that has endured decades of mostly low-level separatist conflict.

“If necessary I will deploy more troops”, – Karnavian told reporters in televised remarks, adding that he planned to spend most of this week in the region.

Security was being maintained throughout Papua on Monday as police worked with influential people in the region to control the situation, said national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo.

Television footage showed people cleaning up a partly charred building that protesters torched in the provincial capital of Jayapura.

Antara said four people were killed in Jayapura during protests last week, citing the city’s police chief.

At least one soldier and five civilians were killed in the rural town of Deiyai last week, among the deadliest of the latest demonstrations, Papuan police spokesman Ahmad Kamal said.

The authorities and activists have different accounts of what happened in Deiyai. An internet blackout across Papua has made verifying information difficult.